Ari's Five Foods

5 Foods for the Week of October 26, 2009

Hi all!

Greetings and good wishes from the middle of October. Can’t say I’m personally wild about winter approaching but the leaves are beautiful and there’s all that great food for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the holidays coming up.

Congrats to everyone on the Christmas Cookie Club release, the coffee roaster firing up in its new spot, candy bar sales booming across the country, the busiest day in 28 years at the Deli this past weekend, the successful start of welcoming the holiday staff to Mail Order for the season and a few hundred other great accomplishments that I’m failing to list here. While we’ve definitely got some spots that we’re pulling together to build sales in still, overall, things seems to be moving forward in positive ways (I’m generalizing so please know that I know where trends are still tight and am working hard to be of help…). So… although I’m really here to write about food, somehow I let my mind move onto leadership and looking ahead to the coming months. So apologies for that—if you want to get the culinary stuff you can skip down to the bit on baguettes below.

In the bigger picture organizational sense though, it’s been striking me of late that most (not all) of the pundits now seem to spending their time arguing over whether the economy is getting better or not (as opposed to arguing over how much worse it’s going to get). Under which circumstances it would be easy to get a bit of that feeling of relief, of having “made it” through the toughest times, and of starting to let up a little. I can’t say for anyone else but I know I’m vulnerable to a bit of that. Which is why, in all seriousness, I’m very committed to myself and to you to going into the next ten weeks of holiday season at higher than ever energy levels (yes, adjusted for health issues, thank you J), and of pushing myself to help bring everything we do to higher levels than ever. In truth, having gone back and reread the essay (working on a “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading” book) I did a year or so ago on how I thought we should handle our response to the economy, I realized that everything in it is still equally appropriate. The same stuff—pushing for ever better food, ever greater service, the spirit of generosity, a better than ever workplace, guarding our margins, etc.—is all as totally true now as it was twelve months ago. Which just stands to remind us of what we knew then and I think know now and everyone here is already committed to—that our job is always to do what we’re already supposed to be doing better than ever every day, regardless of harried headlines and assorted economic ups and downs.

So, not that you actually asked me, but if you did, I’d say the next few months are the time to work harder than ever to take better care of customers and coworkers and to push our food quality levels to new heights. To me, that often means actually acting on those little feelings we’ve got inside that tell us that something we make or do or manage could be better, even though we’re not getting much urgent pressure to change it. It’s hard to do because, realistically, no matter what the improvement is, we know we’re going to meet a fair bit of resistance when we go after it. This isn’t glamorous work. Later of course everyone will tell you/us how smart it was but in the moment, the truth is it’s almost always less stressful to stick with the status quo than to constructively challenge ourselves to get better and then get people on board to do what needs to be done. Just for fun, I’ve reattached what I wrote last fall. Still seems pretty relevant to me nearly twelve months later. Given that it’s basically what we’ve been doing since we opened in ’82, it’ll probably be equally relevant next fall too. And the fall after that as well.

One element of that essay, and of what we’ve done since day one, is to live the spirit of generosity—to give more to folks around us first rather than waiting to get something for ourselves before we give. Speaking of which, although Wall St. bonus levels seem to be right back where they were there are still a lot of people out there in need, who don’t have jobs or food or a place to live, let alone a big bonus. Any way one wants to give help is good, of course, and in the moment, I’ll just add here that there are (I think) a few seats left for the Vampire’s Ball on Wednesday night. Elizabeth Kostova is flying in from Asheville for the event to read from her soon to be released new novel, Swan Thieves. The event helps everyone at Food Gatherers to fund feeding folks in need in our community and every ticket sold does make a difference. Even if you’re out of town or already booked for that evening and can’t make it to the event, there’s no reason not to buy a ticket and help support folks in need. For more details see the Vampire’s Ball details on the Roadhouse site or to go

There’s probably not all that much in the preceding paragraphs that you haven’t already thought on your own, or heard from someone else you work with. Apologies if I’m being repetitive. It’s a good problem—one I’m deeply appreciative of—to be around so many hundreds of people here that are going after great things day in and day out. It’s not the norm in the world, but it’s the only way I’d want to work. Thanks for the chance to be part of it.

Anyways, enough of that non-culinary nonsense—here are five foods that are active in my brain, poked into and played with as it’s been of late.

See you all soon!


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Ari's Five Foods

5 Foods for the Week of October 4, 2009

Hey Everyone

Fall is here in force I guess. Cooler weather, less sun than I’d like to see, tomato season winding down, and days are getting shorter. But hey, there’s lots and lots of good stuff happening too. Construction at the coffee space, chocolate and apricot rugelach out at the Bakeshop, a bunch of good ZingTrain seminars, late fall produce from Cornman and actually way more good foods to write about than I can possibly fit in to these five. Which means more to come soon. Stay tuned.
In the mean time . . . here’s five foods I’ve been focused on for the last few days!

Have fun and eat good food!


In this issue of 5 Foods:
1. Christmas Cookie Club
2. Artisan Chocolate from Patric and Askinosie
3. Salad with Tomatoes, Toast and Terrific Oil & Vinegar
4. Ortiz Gran Anchoa Anchovy Filets
5. Terrific Taralli from Italy

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